United Kingdom-based GlaxoSmith Kline (GSK) stepped up its effort in contributing to the war against COVID-19 by aligning with a Chinese biotech to support the development and commercialization of a recombinant protein-based coronavirus vaccine candidate called COVID-19 XWG-03. GSK reports the investigational vaccine, part of an ongoing collaboration between Xiamen University in Fujian Province in Southern China and a privately-held biotech company called Xiamen Innovax Biotech Co., Ltd., will offer up its adjuvant system for preclinical evaluation of the COVID-19 XWG-03.
TrialSite News follows up on a recent company message from CEO Emma Walmsley announcing this news.
What is COVID-19 XWG-03?
This experimental, preclinical-based recombinant protein-based coronavirus vaccine candidate being developed by Xiamen University and Xiamen Innovax Biotech Co., Ltd (Xiamen Innovax) is based on a series of truncated S (spike) proteins, which will be screened during the preclinical testing process while the ultimate lead candidate will be determined by immunogenicity data.
Who is Xiamen Innovax Biotech Co. Ltd?
Based in Xiamen, Fujian Province in China, Xiamen Innovax is a Chinese company that manufactures, markets, and develops vaccines. They have developed other vaccine products such as HEV 239, a vaccine to treat Hepatitis E. This product was approved by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology after being tested during a controlled trial of over 100,000 people from the Jiangsu Province over a 12 month period.
According to their website (translated), they are a wholly-owned subsidiary of Beijing Wantai Biopharmaceutical Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of YangShengTang Group, dedicated to the development of high-quality and affordable vaccines for human disease prevention. They were founded in 2005.
The Backer: A Chinese Billionaire and Elementary School Drop out
Zhong Shanshan is truly a success story as he built one of China’s largest beverage companies. Early on, he was an elementary school drop-out and joined Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, later working as a construction worker and even a journalist. Mr. Zhong parlayed his accumulated capital into various companies, including biotech and his YangShengTang Group, which owns Xiamen Biotech and invested in the joint laboratory at Xiamen University working with a preeminent Professor Xia Ningshao.
What is Role of Xiamen University?
Xiamen University has a long history of biological research, and, in fact, according to one interview with Xinhua, the university president Zhang Rong has been undertaking such research for nearly a century. Zhang actually claimed that antigen technology was created here first. The university has been developing the vaccine candidate with the biotech company. The university collaboration with YangShengTang group goes back to the joint biopharmaceutical’s laboratory established at the university. The lab has been led by Professor Xia Ningshao. According to the university’s website, Professor Xia is one of the most cited researchers in China for three consecutive years.
At this lab, YangShengTang (again owner of Xiamen Innovax) successfully used DNA recombination technology to express proteins in E. coli used for vaccine production. The partnership also is producing a cervical cancer vaccine candidate.
What is GSK’s role in this Initiative?
GSK will provide access to an adjuvant to be used in the vaccine. A specialty of GSK, adjuvants are additives utilized in select vaccines to trigger the body’s immune response to the targeted threat.
Have GSK Collaborated with Xiamen Innovax in the Past?
Yes. The two companies worked together just a year ago to develop a vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV), which was part of an effort to develop a future replacement for Cevarix. GSK entered into an agreement to tap into the advanced capabilities of Xiamen Innovax via its parent company’s joint laboratory operations at Xiamen University run by Professor Xia Ningshao.
And in fact, because of this ongoing relationship, GSK’s CEO reports that early indications point to the possible benefit of the GSK adjuvant—the UK-based pharma expects more data reported from their various collaboration in the next few months ahead.
How else is GSK supporting the War on COVID-19?
GSK is primarily supporting other vaccine makers with its adjuvant technology. Ms. Walmsley notes the importance of adjuvant technology during a pandemic as it can reduce the amount of vaccine protein required per dose—essentially helping producers to produce more doses.
GSK is supporting the University of Queensland and Clover Biopharmaceuticals, and they have expanded collaboration with other companies.
GSK Joins the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator Funded by Bill Gates
TrialSite News covered the founding of the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, which included a $125 million infusion from the Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard. GSK will contribute to this cause, reports the CEO, by making available compounds from its libraries for screening for activity against COVID-19.
GSK Evaluates its Current Medicines for Value-added Use
GSK is presently reviewing existing marketed products and medicines to determine if they could be of help in fighting COVID-19. Additionally, they are open to making their specialized R&D laboratory space available for the cause.
GSK Donates $10 million to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund
Set up by the UN Foundation and WHO to support WHO and partners to prevent, detect, and manage the pandemic particularly where the needs are greatest, this fund website can be seen here.
Professor Xia Ningshao, PhD, University of Xiamen